Written by 7:47 am Brea, Musical, Review, Southgate Productions, Theater, Uncategorized

Southgate Productions presents: Once @ Curtis Theatre – Review

photo credit: Francis Gacad

Written by Patrick Chavis

While not wholly consistent, this production of Once by Southgate Productions, playing now at the Curtis Theatre in Brea, has multiple sparks of ingenuity and greatness that cannot be ignored.


Once is a musical about a Hoover vacuum repairman living in Dublin, Ireland, named Guy, played by Alec Reush, who meets a very honest and direct Czech woman named Girl, played by Emma Laird. Girl wants her vacuum fixed but believes she can help fix Guy’s relationship with music and his past love. In the process, Girl and Guy develop a relationship that tests each of them in different ways.

This musical, with the book written by Enda Walsh and the Music Lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, has many of the beautiful parts in a boy meets girl storyline. It takes it a little deeper, into something more real. To do that in a musical is impressive, especially because the songs have a solid connection to the characters’ cultures, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.


The direction in this piece goes from broader in a technical way in the first act to more focused in the second act. We have a much stronger focus on the leads in the second act. This made the show feel inconsistent. Focusing on the chemistry between these two naturally brings out the comedy. The comedy felt so forced in the first act. It felt like they were playing it to be funny instead of letting it come out.

The first act was perfectly fine, but I didn’t know what I was missing until I got to the second act when the emotional scenes hit harder and the line delivery was better.

The scenic design from Jon Gaw is a sturdy-looking, well-constructed bar with plenty of room in the middle of the stage for dancing and shenanigans.

A design highlight is when the characters stand atop the bar and look at the ocean. Projected light hits the stage, and the sound design from Thor Fay provides some lovely sound textures.

The eclectic streetwear used throughout this production, from the Costume Designer Sara Amaya, not only clothes the actors but gives us a peak into their personalities, from the flirtatious, tight-fighting clothing worn by Emily Tripp, who plays Rezza, down to sturdy but weathered jackets and scarfs Alec Reusch wears.


A talented group of actors was assembled on this stage. When they harmonized, it was something to behold.

Newcomer to OC Theater Emma Laird sings and plays a solo piano rendition of “The Hill”. It was a captivating and intense performance.

Alec Reusch can belt out some of these tunes with an undeniable passion. He was consistently good throughout the entire show.

Kara Broulette’s portrayal of Baruska is full of life and well-performed.

David Rodriguez is hilarious as Billy. His character brings a much-needed lightness to the story.

8.1 Overall
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Good Show! OCR Recommended! February 9 – 25, 2024

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